Monetize Your WordPressMU Site

I’ve been looking for a way to monetize a WordPressMU site, and have come down to two options: make it a membership site and/or use applicable affiliate links.

Subscription sites are getting more and more common as time goes by. There are many sites making big bucks off of mass quantities of tiny subscriptions. However, there are also many sites that never make it off the ground because they can’t get users to pay for their content or service. The only way I’ve found of knowing what will work is by trying it.

I’ve done a lot of research and testing in the last couple of weeks, in search of a good membership management application or WordPress plugin. Most of the subscription plugins out there are intended to hide and show premium content, but I’d like to monetize a service not the content. I started with aMember, then tried several WordPress plugins, and have gone full circle, concluding that aMember is the best solution for my needs. If I weren’t using BuddyPress, Wishlist Member would have been my final selection. Although I was unable to thoroughly test all of the following options, they are all rumored to work with WPMU.

  • aMember. A full-featured, well-supported membership management application.
    Price: $179.95 for single license
    Payment gateways: You name it, they’ve most likely got it.

    Pros: Tons of payment gateway options that can be integrated siply and quickly by checking the boxes and inputting access keys. 30-day money back return policy. Supports custom plugins.
    Cons: Integrating into WPMU requires PHP knowledge and skinning can be a pain. Here is the way I got these two applications to play nicely together.

  • WishList Member. An easily integrated WordPress plugin.
    Price: $97 single/$297 multiple
    Payment gateways: PayPal (but not Sandbox), Click Bank, 1ShoppingCart, and Cydec

    Pros: It’s a WordPress plugin, so integration is fast and simple with very little extra styling. 30-day money back guarantee. It works in WPMU although the authors don’t officially support it.
    Cons: Doesn’t work with BuddyPress. Integration still required the creation of payment buttons with the payment processor. Code encryption makes any customizations impossible.

  • Your Members plugin. There is currently a beta version of Your Members available for WordPressMU. While in beta, $800 will allow each MU blog to hide specified content from any users who don’t have the specified membership. I haven’t testing this plugin out because of the price, which will only be increasing, but it looks like a great option for content-driven sites.
    Price: $800
    Payment gateways: PayPal, Click Bank

    Pros: Built specifically for WPMU.
    Cons: The price makes it difficult to try it out since I’m a tightwad, and the feature documentation is very limited at this point.

  • WP-Member. I have heard that WP-Member has out-of-the-box WPMU capabilities, but was unable to test it. After several hours of attempting to get IceCube encryption to work on my server, I was unable to even activate the plugin.
    Price: $44.99 single/$77.57 2 sites/up to $196.00 10 sites
    Payment gateways: PayPal

    Pros: It’s cheap. I used a promo code (save50) and got 50% off for a grand total of $22.50. No need to create buttons from PayPal. Frequent sale prices.
    Cons: IonCube Encryption. The plugin authors have very stiff and somewhat unfriendly-sounding terms: “We do not offer refunds as there are no reasons why any software we sell should not work.” The WP-Member website sound effects and animations are way overdone.

Affiliate sales are a relatively pain-free alternative to setting up a membership site or even a supplemental revenue source. To get started with affiliate sales, follow the steps below:

  1. Sign up with LinkShare for larger company listings, or ClickBank or ShareASale for smaller ones. I was surprised to see that companies like Nordstrom and iTunes have affiliate programs.
  2. Apply with any applicable affiliates. NetFlix has a sweet affiliate program. They offer $16 per free signup that comes through your affiliate link. Sadly, they review affiliate applications very carefully for site with applicable content. They rejected my application. :-(
  3. Place links and banners on your site. The built-in text widget is great for affiliate banners. Or just replace/add links across your site.
  4. Organize and Disguise your links. Use the free Pretty Link plugin for WordPress to shorten, disguise, track, and organize your affiliate links. Replace any links in your banners with your new “pretty link”. If you’d like more time-saving automation like keyword/url replacement and auto tweets, Pretty Link Pro is well worth the $97. New features are also being continuously added to the premium version of this plugin.
  5. Watch the commissions roll in. Wahoo!

Comments

  1. says

    You missed one: Rapid Action Profits (RAP) with the Membership Plus Addon, which includes a Subscription addon. Actually, the Mbr+ guys have released a newer addon, the Rapid Action Press addon, that integrates RAP with WordPress. As I write this, RA Press licensees get a license for their SecureDL addon for free, which protects downloads no matter where they live — even on a service like Amazon S3.

    At first blush, the price for all of this might seem a bit high. But when you consider that you’re getting an UNLIMITED SITES license, you’re saving money over aMember on your 2nd or 3rd site. (I think RAPress has a single and unlimited site option. but the others are all unlimited.)

    I’ve worked with these tools for as long as they’ve been out and the support is top-notch.

    The unique thing about RAP is that it supports affiliates using a kind of “flip-flop” approach to payments. This means affiliates get paid directly and immediately — you don’t need to collect the funds and disburse them later, saving lots of headaches come tax time, and reducing the risks with your own PayPal account.

    It also ONLY works with PayPal, but that’s not much of an issue these days because they take all major credit cards. The only people who MUST have a PP acct (other than the site owner) are the affiliates.

    Other unique features of RAP are: it supports both 1- and 2-tier payment structures; it supports both regular affiliates and “JV Partners”; and it also allows you to have up to two “Equity Partners”.

    I find the use of RAPress to provide tight integration of RAP’s payment prowess into WordPress to be its biggest feature right now.

    -David

    • says

      Thanks David. I hadn’t heard of that one, but it looks like it has everything the others lacked: affiliates, coupon codes, equity partners, PayPal integration from the admin, and even a 60 day money back guarantee. Nice. The multiple site logins would be nice too, especially with a plugin Blair Williams wrote to allow plugins to tie into the WordPress auto-update system. It just checks to see if the user exists on the specified domain, and then shells out the download. It’s SWEET! But only one plugin can be associated with each domain. This would make it possible to auto-update multiple plugins, without any hassle.
      I’ll have to get him to buy Mbr+ for me to test out. Thanks for the pointer.

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